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Before doing the below exercise, I and my friend have been taught about inversion, like these examples:

Example 1 : I have never seen such a beautiful rose. (standard word order)
Example 2 : Never have I seen such a beautiful rose. (inversion)

Source: http://www.learn-english-today.com/lessons/lesson_contents/verbs/inversion.html

We understand that the two example sentences basically mean the same thing, and in example 2 inversion is used to add more emphasis.

However, we have confusion about this exercise from our exercise book (we notice the exercise is adapted from the book "English Grammar Practice for TOELF", page 281, question 14 here)

These questions are incomplete sentences. Beneath each sentence you will see four words or phrases, marked A, B, C or D. You are to choose one word or phrase that best completes the sentences.

In that small country, ____ received economic degrees as today.
A. never have so many women
B. so many women have never
C. never so many women have
D. never so have many women

Our book's answer key is (A), but my friend thinks (B) is also a valid answer in this case according to the above example sentences. For me, I don't quite agree with her. I guess (B) doesn't make any sense there, but I just don't know how to explain it to my friend.

Could you please advise whether my guess is correct or not in this case?

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A clause that begins with Never has subject-verb inversion, the tensed auxiliary verb coming before the subject:

Never had tensed verb we subject seen such a strange sight.

A. never have so many women B. so many women have never C. never so many women have D. never so have many women

In that small country, ____ received economic degrees as today.

So "A" is a viable option:

... never havetensed aux verb so many women subject received economic degrees as today.

and "C" and "D" are not viable because there is no inversion there.

"B" is not viable for a different reason.

In that small country, so many women have never received economic degrees as today. ungrammatical

Let's look at the clause:

so many women have never received economics degrees as today.

as today is not a valid complement for so many women.

so many women as today ungrammatical

What you could say is:

As many women as [there are] today have never received economic degrees before.

As many women have never received economics degrees as today.

Those two sentences are grammatical but somewhat awkward in the way they combine as many and never.

This would be better:

So many women have never received economics degrees until today.

Best would be to start the sentence with Never:

Never have so many women received economics degrees before.

Never until today have so many women received economics degrees.

My ear tells me to avoid combining never and as today even though Never as today is a valid collocation:

Never as today have so many women received economics degrees.

Never have so many women received economics degrees as today.

To my ear this collocation sounds very dated, on the verge of being forgotten.

  • Could you explain further "B is not viable for a different reason"? – doquan0 Dec 25 '17 at 16:12
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    Yes, am doing so. Got a phone call. :) – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 25 '17 at 16:12
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I would say that you are right in saying that A is the only correct option for a couple reasons. In this instance, the word "never" changes the meaning of the sentence depending on what it is in front of. In A, "never" implies that the country has never had something, but in B, it implies that women have never received something. I would also point out that by inversing the word order, it also gives a different meaning to the word "as". In A, It talks about how there haven't ever been so many women receiving economic degrees AS THERE ARE TODAY. In B, it implies that "as today" is a qualitative type of economic degree. Another example of B would be to replace the word "today" with "graduates" or something similar. So my explaination to your friend would be that in this case, the word "never" changes the meaning of the sentence depending on it's placement. In the inverted example you gave about seeing a beautiful rose, the word "never" gets the same point accross because in both situations, it is talking about never seeing something before. In A and B of your question, "never" changes "received" to "haven't received".

I don't know if that was helpful or not, but hopefully it was!

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It is an extremely awkward sentence. I doubt any native speaker would ever say it although a careless one might write it. It contains several instances of ellipsis as well as a strained word order as well as an unfortunate choice of tense.

"Never before in that small country did women receive as many economic degrees as they do today." That is inverted word order with a nice clear-cut distinction between present and past tenses and contrasting temporal markers at the start and end of the sentence. But you can also say, "Women in that small country never before received as many economics degrees as they do today."

But the example sentence uses the present perfect without any contrasting tense due to ellipsis plus uses an ellipsis of "before." "Have never received" does not mean the same thing as "have never before received."

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